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The importance of selenium.

This could also be titled Extra Cash in Your Pocket, not in your vet's or More Milk in Your Bucket.

It can be downright tedious, reading all the material that is written on how to feed your animals and comparing all the charts and graphs and downright mind-boggling as you see all those beautiful glossy ads that vie for your supplement dollar. But . . . hang in there, don't throw it all up in the air. It is often the simple that is the best.

I'd like to introduce you to an often neglected little trace mineral that can work like a miracle for you . . . Selenium . Now this is especially true if you live in an area where the soil is low in selenium and you feed or graze fescue. Fescue is grown on more than 35 million acres in the U.S.

Call your local ag agent and ask if you live in an area that is low in selenium. Then you can add a little bit of this mineral and save yourself a whole lot of grief and future vet bills.

What can happen if you are neglecting the selenium requirements of your stock? Horses show it by impaired locomotion (typing up) white muscle disease (difficulty in sucking, swallowing and respiratory distress) . Goats also show symptoms of white muscle disease which can end in death.

There are several good selenium and vitamin E supplements that you can add to your grain feedings each day. Selenium is best utilized along with vitamin E, so feed them both. Salt blocks do not contain enough selenium to fill the requirements. My local feed mill makes a selenium/salt. This is a coarse ground mix that I free feed in large tubs in the pasture about once a week.

At one month prior to foaling (kidding) give a selenium shot. Your vet can give you the exact amount according to weight.

If you feed or graze fescue, selenium can help tame its toxicity. There is a fungus that is in the bud of the plant that produces two alkaloids. One of these is a vasoconstrictor. The feeding or grazing of fescue is not recommended for dairy animals or pregnant mares. Pull these off the pasture at least a month prior to foaling (kidding) and administer the selenium shot and supplement their diets with 25% alfalfa hay and grain.

Tall fescue can cause low conception rates, high abortion rates, tough placentas that can suffocate the newborn and lack of milk for the newborn. Lack of milk. . .that phrase translates into less milk in my milk bucket to me.

The feeding of selenium acts as a neutralizer of the fescue toxicity. The addition of alfalfa and grain mix will help further.

I remove my pregnant mares off pasture a couple months before their foaling date and do not put them back until they are rebred plus 90 days. While they are being rebred, they should have a foal at side.

My milk goats are free to graze the fields and woods of the farm and receive two meals of top alfalfa hay each day, a little grain, plus the supplement of selenium and vitamin E.

I can hear someone say, "I'm not have any problem." Good for you. I lost one foal and my friend lost three goats. But put this information in the back of your mind and ruminate on it. Contact your vet or ag agent. After you lose one foal, one calf, or your dairy animal fails to perform, you may want to do some more thinking.

The toxicity of fescue in my area is enough that the local vet recommends cattle receive four selenium bolus a year. The side effects to cattle have been foot rot, which in extreme cases can cause loss of the rear hooves, tail or outer 1/3 of the ears. So learn to manage that fescue and tame it with selenium.

RELATED ARTICLE:Selenium deficiency in southern cattle

The South has long had a reputation for raising sickly cattle. There was a higher calf death rate, cows tended to stand in ponds and under shade most of the time, hair coats were rough and they did not gain weight well. Most of this was attributed to grazing endophyte infected fescue. Endophyte is a fungus which can affect fescue when stressed. Fescue is a popular southern grazing grass due to its ability to grow during hot and dry summers.

Research at the Prairie Research Unit of Mississippi State University appears to have pinpointed selenium deficiency as the major cause of the problem. Supplemental feeding with a high-selenium mineral mix called Clover Brand Mineral with Selenium (sold by MFC Farm Co-ops in many of the areas of the Southeast) resulted in an increase in conception rates, weaning weight, stocker yearling gain and a lowering of death loss and animal health problems.

The findings were unexpected in that the area of the research is considered to be a high selenium soil area.

Mineral mixes from kelp contain about 4 ppm selenium.

Excess selenium is also known to cause livestock problems in several western areas.
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Author:Winters, Barbara
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1995
Previous Article:Four children; tight budget.
Next Article:Federal regulations on selenium have changed.

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